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Eleanor of Castile (DNB00)


ELEANOR of Castile (d. 1290), queen of Edward I, daughter of Ferdinand III of Castile, by his second wife, Joanna, half-sister of Alfonso X, and heiress through her mother of the counties of Ponthieu and Montreuil, a princess of great beauty and discretion, met her future husband at Burgos, and was married to him in the monastery of Las Huelgas in October 1254. Her marriage was politically important, for in consideration of it Alfonso transferred to Edward his claims on Gascony, and it also brought him the succession to her mother's possessions; Edward settled 1,000l. a year upon her, which was to be increased to 1,500l. on his attaining the throne (Fœdera, i. 519). She stayed for a year with her husband in Gascony, and came to England shortly before him, landing at Dover, and entering London 17 Oct. 1255, where she was received with much state, and was lodged in the house occupied by her brother Sanchey, archbishop-elect of Toledo, in the New Temple. Sanchey was visiting England with reference to the projected marriage of the king's daughter Beatrix, and his extravagance at the king's expense filled the Londoners with anger against Eleanor's fellow-countrymen (Matt. Paris, v. 509, 513). She was joined by her husband before the end of November. When Edward returned from France, in February 1263, he placed her in Windsor Castle, and she appears to have remained there until after the battle of Lewes, when, on 18 June 1204, the king, who was then wholly under the power of the Earl of Leicester, was made to command her departure. She then took refuge in France, remained there until after the battle of Evesham, and returned to England 29 Oct. 1265.

She accompanied her husband on his crusade in 1270. When, after he had been wounded by an assassin at Acre, it was proposed to cut all the inflamed flesh out of his arm, the surgeon ordered that she should be taken away from him, evidently lest her unrestrained grief should increase his danger, and she was led away 'weeping and wailing' (Hemingburgh, i. 336). The famous story of her saving his life by sucking the poison from the wound is noticed as a mere report by the Dominican Ptolomæus Lucensis (d. 1327?) in his 'Ecclesiastical History' (xxiii. c. 6), and is evidently utterly unworthy of credit. She was crowned with her husband on 19 Aug. 1274. After her return in 1265 she appears never to have been long absent from Edward. Though pious and virtuous, she was rather grasping. Archbishop Peckham interfered on behalf of some of her overburdened tenants, and told her that reparation must precede absolution. She had given scandal by joining with Jewish usurers, and getting estates from christians (Peckham Reg. ii. 619, iii. 939). She appears to have fallen sick of a low fever in the end of the summer of 1290, and was probably placed by the king at 'Hardeby' (Rishanger, p. 120) or Harby in Nottinghamshire. After he had met his parliament at Clipstone he returned to Harby on 20 Nov., and remained with her until her death on the 28th. Her corpse was embalmed, and her funeral procession left Lincoln on 4 Dec.; her body was buried at Westminster on the 17th by the Bishop of Lincoln, and her heart was deposited in the church of the Dominicans. The route taken by the funeral procession is ascertained by the notices of the crosses that the king erected to her memory at Lincoln, Grantham, Stamford, Geddington, Northampton, Stony Stratford, Woburn, Dunstable, St. Albans, Waltham, West-cheap, and Charing. The effigy on her tomb, of remarkable beauty, appears to have been the work of an English goldsmith named William Torrell.

[For authorities see Strickland's Queens, i. 418; Ptolomæi Lucensis Hist. Eccl., Rerum Ital. SS., Muratori, xi. 743, and col. 1168. For details concerning Eleanor's sickness, death, funeral, and the chantries and other foundations in her honour see Archæologia, xxix. 186, and Engl. Hist. Rev. (April 1888), X. 315.]

W. H.